The New Zealand dollar was weaker after a bad session on Wall Street amid a growing realisation of just how bad the coronavirus crisis in the US is becoming.

The kiwi was trading at 59.28 US cents at 5pm in Wellington from 59.48 at the same time yesterday while the trade-weighted index was at 68.12 from 68.09.

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Those known to be infected with covid-19 in the US has jumped to 215,215, up by 26,473 a day earlier – reported infections there continue to escalate and the latest daily increase compares with 5,588 on March 20.

The latest news from the US is that Florida's governor has belatedly ordered residents to stay at home and President Donald Trump has acknowledged that as many as 240,000 US citizens could die from the virus. US deaths so far number 5,110.


"I want every American to be prepared for the hard days that lie ahead," Trump said at the White House. "We're going to go through a very tough two weeks. This is going to be a very painful, very, very painful two weeks."

The benchmark S&P 500 Index closed down 4.4 per cent, setting a negative tone for NZ financial markets today.

"It was going to be a tough day for us today," particularly against safe-haven-type currencies such as the greenback, said Hamish Pepper, fixed income and currency strategist at Harbour Asset Management.

"I think there was generally a more focused digestion of the US situation. A much greater degree of thought seemed to be given to how bad this could be for the US. We've all seen with the infection data that the US is becoming the epicentre for covid-19," Pepper said.

"Infections are still accelerating, new cases are increasing rapidly. What does that mean for the prospects of lockdown and what does that mean for the economy? Equity investors materially revised down their earnings expectations."

New Zealand going into its second week of national lockdown now has 797 people infected, up by 89 cases from yesterday. Only one person has died so far in this country.

The New Zealand dollar was trading at 97.37 Australian cents from 97.11 cents at 5pm yesterday. It was at 47.86 British pence from 48.01, at 54.18 euro cents from 53.93, at 63.66 yen from 64.10 and at 4.2101 Chinese yuan from 4.2139.

The bid price on the two-year swap rate closed at 0.4975 per cent from 0.5050 yesterday, while 10-year swaps were at 0.9125 per cent from 0.8700 per cent.